Before the season started, the Premier League title race looked as though it was going to be a battle of the two Manchester clubs. In the opening seven games, however, a gulf in quality has been evident between the two.
City were stunned at White Hart Lane last weekend, but prior to that Pep Guardiola had enjoyed a perfect start to life in England. Jose Mourinho’s tenure on the other side of the city has had a bumpier beginning, as United sit five points adrift of the league-leaders.
Mourinho cannot afford for that deficit to grow, as Guardiola has a history of running away with titles when in the ascendancy. CaughtOffside have chosen five players that United should target to close the gap on their rivals and win them the Premier League.
On the right-side of defence, Antonio Valencia has been Jose Mourinho’s favoured choice so far this season. The Colombian was initially converted from a winger into a more defensive role by former-manager Louis Van Gaal and has provided a useful alternative to Matteo Darmian. However, he has his limitations and United would benefit from a player more naturally suited to that position. Step forward Fabinho, Monaco’s Brazilian full-back whose qualities at both ends of the field could make him an ideal fit at Old Trafford. During his time in Ligue 1 Fabinho has proven himself as an astute defender and a dangerous attacker, having scored eight goals in all competitions last season from defence. United are already lining up a January move for him too, according to Manchester Evening News. Formerly of Real Madrid, Fabinho was handed his debut at the Bernabeu by none other than United boss Mourinho.
In the first few games of his Old Trafford return, Paul Pogba has been deployed in a deeper role than he is suited to. He has so far been unable to get into the sort of dangerous positions in which he can make the difference. If he had a midfield partner more suited to holding the midfield he would have the freedom to push forward and display the quality that made him the worlds most expensive player. The player who could well be the answer for United is Nemanja Matic, someone who Jose Mourinho knows well. Matic was imperious in Mourinho’s midfield during their title-winning 2014/15 season and it comes as no surprise that The Mirror have already linked him with a move to Old Trafford.
One of the most coveted players in world football at the moment, Manchester United would send a huge statement to the rest of the Premier League if they were able to entice Antoine Griezmann. He’s one of the hottest strikers in Europe at the moment, having scored 22 La Liga goals last season and six-in-six games so far this campaign. His buyout clause reportedly stands at £63m, according to El Confidential, who say United are ready to pay that price. They have already demonstrated their financial power in smashing the world transfer record to sign Paul Pogba, so it would come as no surprise if they broke the bank once more to add Griezmann to their attack.
Manchester United have struggled to create chances so far this season and have scored five fewer goals than City in the opening seven games. Wayne Rooney has been widely highlighted as a weakness in the number-ten role behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jose Mourinho could turn his attentions to Real Madrid’s Isco as a replacement. Isco has been largely out of favour at the Bernabeu and according to The Mirror, United are interested in making a move for him when the transfer window opens in January. The 24-year-old has struggled to force his way into the starting setup in Madrid since joining from Malaga in 2013 and with the emergence of Marco Asensio he finds himself even further down the pecking order. Despite not being of use at the European champions, Isco could be the man to succeed Wayne Rooney.
It has been reported by the Daily Mail that Chelsea are pursuing Burnley centre-back Michael Keane and are willing to part with up to £25 million to sign him. It may well be unwise for Manchester United to stand by and watch it happen. Producing players from their academy has historically been the foundation of United’s success, and Keane is one of the most talented to come through their ranks in recent years. In 2015, he made the decision to leave Old Trafford in search of first-term football – and it has done him wonders. At Burnley he has established himself as a cool-headed, dependable centre-back and the big-money price-tag he has been branded with is a testament to his progression. Keane will already know Manchester United inside out and now has the quality to compete for a starting role, if Mourinho is looking to bolster his defence in January he should look no further than the 23-year-old.